WHO: 8-4 Middle Tennessee (CUSA) vs. 8-4 Navy
WHAT: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (11th Year)
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas
WHEN: Dec. 30 at 11:45 a.m. ET
WHY: Navy’s seniors are looking for their first bowl victory before moving on in their Naval careers. The senior class went 0-2 and missed the postseason over the pats three years, leaving one item left on the senior class to-do list. They have defeated Notre Dame, won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy multiple times and went undefeated against Army. All that is missing for the seniors at Navy is a bowl victory.
For Navy it starts with quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the heart and soul of the Navy option offense. Reynolds led the Midshipmen in rushing with 1,260 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns. He is among the nation’s top red zone players as well, doing much of his damage inside the 20-yard line as Navy likes to grind out yards in small bunches. It is not often Navy breaks open a big play, but they are capable of doing so if they wear down the opposing defense enough. This is what Navy likes to do and it fits their skill set well.
Middle Tennessee has won five straight games to match last season’s win total. Last year the Blue Raiders stayed home despite having eight wins, but that was in part due to the Sun Belt Conference not having the number of bowl slots open to conference members meeting bowl eligibility requirements. This year, in their first year as a member of Conference USA, Middle Tennessee was set up nicely with a trip to Fort Worth, Texas to take on Navy.
Expect plenty of running in this game. Navy’s offense is built around the option run game and the Midshipmen rarely take to the air. Middle Tennessee brings the nation’s 25th ranked rushing offense. The Blue Raiders are led by Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley, who combined for over 1,300 yards this season.Middle Tennessee also puts up points on a regular basis. In four for their final five games of the regular season the Blue Raiders scored at least 40 points
PREDICTION: Navy 27, Middle Tennessee 26